Summary: During a routine recon mission for SHIELD, Clint disappears without a trace. In trying to find him, the team stumbles across an unwelcome (and psychotic) blast from Clint's past out for revenge. And it seems he's not working alone... In other words, Clint's in danger. Must be Tuesday.
Pairings: Clintasha and background Peppernony
Warnings: Just general spoilers for the movie… but everyone should've seen it already by now so no worries!
Disclaimer: If I owned anything having to with the Avengers I would be a rich, happy woman. Instead I am a broke, happy woman. One out of two isn't that bad.
Author's Note: Hello everyone! This story is kind of the unofficial sequel to my other story 'Savior'. It started off as a one-shot for Dynamics but it started growing and mutating. So I decided it would just be its own story set in that verse. Don't ask how it fits in with the Dynamics story because I really don't know. Anyway, this is the first chapter. The story is pretty much written at this point. So I'm sharing what I have. Hope you all enjoy. Ciao for now.
I'll Be Gone
Tony never thought he would actually live to see the day when Agent Phil Coulson displayed real human emotions. He freely admitted not being entirely certain that the man even had emotions. He never reacted to Tony's well timed and carefully crafted barbs. He barely batted an eye at Thor's latest hilarious attempts at mastering Earth's culture. He seemed completely oblivious to Bruce's strange new theory that his suits were an extension of his skin (a theory Bruce employed a very engaged Clint in helping to prove). Really the only times Tony ever saw Coulson come close to displaying genuine emotion were his adorkable fan boy moments around Steve. But those don't count because they're just too cute! Tony has never seen Coulson well and truly pissed off. He saw the security footage at the gas station in New Mexico. Phil wasn't even angry while being held at gunpoint. But he was now.
Truthfully Phil he was beyond pissed at the moment. The man was displaying new levels of pissed that had yet to be fully explored and they lived with the giant, green personification of rage and anger. As much as Tony thought he wanted to see it before, he was suddenly wishing he was anywhere but here because here was not a good place. Here had a thoroughly angry Phil Coulson with a gun. Tony really wished he was with Clint because then maybe he could bring him back and end the pissed off reign of Phil Coulson. Because at this point nothing short of the safe and sound return of their resident archer was going to stop Phil from popping a cap in someone's ass before the day was over. Actually even that probably wasn't going to stop him but it might at least decrease the severity of their no doubt horrible agonizing deaths. The keyword being might. Tony wasn't really banking on that one.
"Can one of you very special agents explain how the hell you managed to lose a grown goddamn man?" Phil asked. His voice was its usual level of calm and disinterested but Tony knew it was just his mask. The swearing and condescension were a dead giveaway. That and the fact that his hand yet to move away from his gun at his hip. Oh yeah, someone was definitely getting shot today. Then, almost as if the scene needed any further madness, a loud roar echoed through the hanger. There was also a high chance of Hulk smashing at some point too. Awesome.
"Steve?" Tony asked, caution evident in his voice. "You've got Bruce under control, right? I know I'm a billionaire but there is only so much I'm willing to pay repairs for the hellicarrier. Especially since they deserve it this time."
"Oh, yeah everything is," Steve's voice hesitated over the comm. A thunderous crash echoed in the room adjacent to Tony and the scary showdown from hell. "No! That's a bad Hulk. That is not what Thor's head is for! Put him down!"
Tony's eyes widened. He briefly contemplated going in there, because really what the hell was going on, but he decided that he was better off here making sure that Coulson didn't just jump the gun and straight murder the idiot agents. As much as they may deserve it, they were still employees of SHIELD and Tony really didn't want to have to break in another handler after Fury had Coulson removed. He also knew that despite their incompetence the agents were the only functional clue they had at the moment as to what happened to Clint. This was definitely not how he imagined spending his Saturday.
Then again he imagined this was not the ideal Saturday for anyone involved (though he didn't really care about the moronic agents that lost Clint because they freaking lost Clint!). The Saturday from Hell was really an off shoot from Friday. Fury called interrupting Tony's scheduled quality bonding time with Clint, i.e. the time they spent planning to blow stuff up. Bruce was close at hand to supervise, i.e. aid and abet any and all explosive plans. Or at least that was their intent. Fury's call put the kibosh on those plans quickly. The only reason Tony didn't hold Fury accountable for this massive fail was that he seemed regretful before he even explained the situation.
The World Security Council (oh, there were not enough words in any language to describe how much Tony hated those pompous, presumptuous assholes) decided that as Clint was still an active agent of SHIELD, it was time that he went back to work in SHIELD's best interests. On paper it seemed like a simple mission. Clint would serve as eyes for a group of field agents following up on some intelligence received about some illegal shady thing (Tony never really did figure out what it was that SHIELD did beside try their best to boss them around). It was ridiculously easy. Clint could've done that on his own with enough time to get home and help Tony and Bruce figure out if Thor's cape could burn with or without being attached to the god but apparently the Council wanted to screw with the man so they stuck him with four of the greenest agents SHIELD had.
The Avengers protested the decision. Of course they did. Because when Natasha agreed to a solo deep cover mission under an old alias the week before, she made them promise that Clint would be in exactly the same condition as she left him. There may have been a knife in her hand that she may have used to further demonstrate the many ways she would hurt them if Clint was not okay when she came back. Tony took those threats (more like promises) seriously. He was all for wrapping the archer in bubble wrap and locking him in a padded room but that plan was vetoed by all of them. Bet they were really regretting that decision now.
"Sir," one of the braver baby agents said, clearing his throat. His gaze traveling between Phil's placid face and the hand that refused to stray away from the gun on his hip. "I'm not sure how we lost contact with Barton."
"Agent," Tony interjected, earning several glacial looks. He rolled his eyes. Natasha did it better. "It's Agent Barton to you."
"Why is he even here?" the agent henceforth known as Stupid Ass demanded petulantly, still glaring in Tony's direction.
"He is here because in the absence of Agent Romanoff, he and the other Avengers are Agent Barton's partners," Coulson replied, smoothly. "They are also the team assigned to retrieving one of the most valuable assets SHIELD has to offer. I suggest you be as accommodating as possible. Bringing Agent Barton back in any condition other than alive and well is not an option."
"Thank you, Phil," Tony beamed in Coulson's direction. He may have been mistaken but he was certain there was a ghost of a smile on the man's face. Interesting. He shook his head. "Ok, so let's see if we can try and figure out where exactly you screwed up and lost my friend."
One of the other agents opened their mouth, most likely to protest but it was cut off by another booming growl. A tiny yelp was heard over the communication line that only Coulson and Tony were privy to. Which is why they were the only two to duck in time to avoid the thunder god shaped missile that burst through the wall that was formerly separating the hanger from the very pissed off Hulk. The agents all panicked and pulled out their guns. Tony rolled his eyes again. This was just sad. He ignored them, instead glancing over his shoulder at his friend. A hand shot out of the wreckage followed closely by a blond head of hair.
"Thor? You alive, buddy?"
"Barely," the god muttered, pushing himself up using his hammer. He staggered over to where Tony was standing. "Please tell me you've news on where our comrade has gone. I do not think I can continue engaging the Hulk when he is in this state of mind."
Tony feigned a look of surprised horror. "The mighty Thor admits to being too tired to fight? Is the world coming to an end?"
Thor glared at him from behind his sweat soaked hair. Tony couldn't remember the last time he saw the god look so disheveled. "Son of Stark, I believe the most appropriate response at the moment I can give at the moment is: screw you."
"Who taught you sass?"
"Clint," Steve replied, stepping through the demolished wall. "And you, but mostly Clint." Bruce was close behind him. The baby agents were still trembling, standing with their guns drawn and pointed in Bruce's direction. Steve stopped and actually was the closest to looking annoyed at someone that wasn't a member of the Avengers or an evil, megalomaniacal baddie bent on worldwide destruction that any of them had ever seen before. It was a miracle day all around.
"I really wouldn't suggest doing that. We just managed to calm him down."
Bruce's eyes flashed green as he tugged at the shirt clearly stolen from someone's locker. Tony really hoped it was Stupid Ass' locker. He ignored the guns and walked over to Thor. They exchanged calculating looks before nodding. Just like that the grudge match was pushed to the backburner again and they were back in business. Tony grinned slightly. Sometimes this family stuff was pretty awesome.
"So now that we're all as assembled as we're going to get for now, SHIELD's finest over here was getting ready to tell us all about how they managed to lose track of Clint."
Though Tony liked to think his snark and wit was intimidating, he wasn't stupid enough to believe that he was the reason they were so quick to talk. He knew that had everything to do with the two towering muscle bound blonds and the scientist with the glowing green eyes. The Hulk was too close to the surface and their usual calming agent was currently missing in action. Tony resigned himself to getting used to seeing the too familiar gamma glow instead of his best friend's brown eyes until they finally found Hulk's Cupid.
These were the facts as reported by Stupid Ass and his equally stupid team and as interpreted by Tony: Clint, probably realizing that they were idiots, was up high and as far removed from them as possible. The bumbling morons that never should've made it past basic training walked straight into the warehouse without scoping out the scene first, or trusting Clint's repeated orders not to walk inside. Naturally it was a trap. Pretty much the only reason they weren't all horribly dead was because Clint did what Clint did best: shoot the hell out of anyone that dared to sneak up on his team. So the junior idiots scrambled out of the warehouse to regroup with Clint. Instead of a pissed off Hawkeye, however, they found his quiver and a few arrows lying on his roof perch. There were a few patches of blood found on the rooftop that SHIELD confirmed was Clint's. But no sign of Clint. The facts were stupid. The agents were stupid. And they weren't going to get anywhere just going off their word. That meant only one thing.
"Okay, so according to the junior moron brigade, Clint was standing right here," Tony said, crouching in the spot where his friend stood only hours before. He glanced down at the warehouse across from his position. Though he lacked Clint's insane eyesight, he could see into the open floor area where Thor and Steve were looking for some sort of sign of who set the trap in the first place. He and Bruce were on the roof directly across from them looking for a clue or something that would tell them who or what was able to grab Clint in broad daylight. Supposedly with a team that was supposed to have his back. Instead he was gone without a trace.
"So someone had to sneak up on him from behind," Bruce rumbled behind him. Tony gave him an assessing look. "I'm trying. Trust me, Tony. I'm trying. But this is such bull. We just got him back. Natasha was finally getting to believe that he wasn't going to disappear and I stopped worrying that he was going to starve himself to death. Now he's missing."
Tony sighed. He was trying to keep a distance from the faint panic that was growing since JARVIS reported that the communication line that Tony was not so secretly hacking went dead. He tried tracking Clint's signal after that but there was nothing. They found the tiny earwig on the roof meaning that they had nothing to trace Clint by. It was almost as if he vanished into thin air. It was depressing and the longer they went without some indication that they would find him, the more Tony felt like they wouldn't. But was just not acceptable. Not only because of Natasha but because Tony was finally getting used to this team thing. He didn't want to imagine them a member short… he didn't want to imagine them without Clint.
"We're going to get him back, Bruce," Tony said, forcing himself to sound believable. He was somewhat successful. At least he managed to keep the fine edge of panic and anxiety out of his tone. "We have to. Natasha is going to kill us otherwise."
Bruce gave him a weak smile before nodding. The green lightening somewhat. "Okay, so someone snuck up behind him and attacked."
"This is Hawkeye we're talking about. Even if they snuck up on him, he'd just use his bow to like ninja stab them," Tony shook his head. "It doesn't make sense. Why wouldn't he fight back against whoever grabbed him?"
"Who said he didn't?" Bruce murmured quietly. Tony was about to call him on the random comment when he noticed what caught his friend's eye. It was another blood stain. There was enough distance between them to let them believe that it probably belonged to whoever attacked Clint. Tony smirked. He knelt down to take a sample with the suit's computer strapped to his wrist.
"Jinkies, Brucie! I think we just found a clue."
"Want a Scooby snack, Velma?" Bruce retorted with a smirk of his own.
"Nah, save it for Thor. He's the Scooby in this piece." Tony paused, tilting his head up to look at Bruce. "You do realize this means that Clint is Daphne."
"This would mean that Natasha is Fred. That is scarily accurate. I'm a little concerned now."
"Eh, too late for concerns, no matter how legitimate. You're in this now, Banner. And you just need to accept the madness for what it is." The computer beeped. "Okay, results are in. In the case of the mystery splotch, the culprit is a man named Jacque Duquesne."
"Son of a bitch," Bruce cursed, lurching to his feet. He clutched his head as he paced, trying to burn off the anger.
"Okay, okay," Tony babbled, noticing the movements and what they inevitably led to. "Before you go all grr, argh on me, what's going on? Do we know him? Why do we know him? And why is he going around hunting down our Hawk?"
"Look up…. Swordsman," Bruce grunted. He fell to his knees. He could see Bruce's muscles shifting under his skin, expanding… growing and slowly turning green.
"Hey, did you guys find something?"
Tony giggled nervously, staring at his friend who was transforming before his eyes. "Yeah, I guess you could say that. We found something but I don't think the Hulk liked it very much."
"You mean Bruce."
Tony imagined Steve winced too as the completely changed Bruce bellowed in his direction. "No, I mean The Hulk. He's back. Just as charming as this morning."
"Sounds like. Thor and I are on our way. Try and keep him calm."
"I'm sorry. Do I look like Clint?" Tony drawled, looking up at the giant, green rage monster that was currently looming over him. There was no hint of recognition in the Hulk's eyes and Tony knew that Bruce probably just reached the Coulson level of angry. So not good… for Tony. "Hey there, buddy!"
"Cupid," the Hulk grunted. "Stupid man took Cupid. Hulk smash stupid man!"
"And I'm all for that. Solid plan but right now I need you to calm down a little. I need you to explain who the hell this Jacque Duquesne person is and why do we hate him besides the fact that he's clearly French."
"Okay, so calm and rational is not happening any time soon," Tony muttered. "Thor, Steve, any day now." The Hulk roared again and Tony took an uneasy step backwards. He was starting to see Steve's point of view. When he was in the suit, he felt invincible. But standing in front of the enraged Hulk, he realized just how fragile and vulnerable he really was. Not a good feeling. "Bruce, remind me to be very angry with you later." The Hulk continued to seethe, glaring around the roof as if he could understand what was going on. Tony ducked as a piece of some no doubt critical part of the building went flying past his head. He didn't have enough time to dodge the second part.
It struck him on the temple, temporarily dazing him. He forgot why he wasn't supposed to take a step back. But he remembered when his heel didn't land on solid ground. The Hulk roared. Tony fell. It was a ten story drop. There was no way that he was going to live through that. Especially not without his suit. Bruce was going to be devastated because he accidentally killed Tony. Clint would still be missing and Phil was going to murder the moron agent brigade and get demoted to the SHIELD equivalent of a traffic cop. Today was really the worst day ever.
And then suddenly his rapid descent towards a bloody horrible death came to an abrupt halt. He opened the eyes he didn't realize he'd squeezed shut to see Steve hanging off the fire escape. He somehow managed to grab Tony's shirt as he fell past the super solider. The genius looked up into a pair of strained blue eyes and smirked.
"Cutting it a bit close, aren't we?"
"Where's the gratitude?" Steve asked, shifting so that he had Tony in a more secure hold.
"There'd be gratitude if you got me before he knocked me off the roof."
Steve rolled his eyes, glancing past Tony at something and then letting go. Tony didn't have time to wonder why he let go before Thor was flying him up back to solid ground. He glanced down to see Steve racing up the fire escape to join his three teammates… although it was a little questionable as to what team the Hulk was on at the moment. It most certainly wasn't Thor's as he punched the god in the face, sending him flying into rooftop stairway access. He was stomping towards him again when Steve finally reached the top and appeared in front of his raging friend.
"Bruce, I really hate to do this but it's for your own good."
The Hulk roared yet again. Tony was starting to hate that sound when it was directed at them. Thor groaned, climbing uneasily out the rubble to stand behind Steve. "I believe that he may have a difference of opinion on that matter."
Steve blinked at him, turning to glance at Tony over his shoulder. "You're right, Tone. Thor and Clint are not allowed to spend any more time alone. They're starting to sound like alike."
"He finally admits I'm right," Tony muttered. He watched as Steve pulled out what appeared to be a SHIELD issued gun, pointing it at the Hulk. "And this helps the situation, how?"
Steve didn't answer. He didn't need to as he fired the gun at their friend. A purple dart stuck out of the large green bicep. The Hulk looked at the tiny object in confusion before he staggered. His eyes rolled into the back of his head and he started to collapse. He was Bruce again before he hit the ground.
"Well, bright side, no more green rage monster tossing us around for a few hours. Downside, Bruce seemed to know who we're looking for," Tony said, joining the two blondes standing over Bruce. He saw Thor nudge him a little harder than necessary with his foot but didn't blame him much for the reaction. "Whoever it is, it's bad. It triggered that."
"Let's look into it. Did he say anything before he hulked out?" Steve asked, not looking at Tony. He looked like he was trying to figure out how they were going to manage to get Bruce off the roof now that the stairs were destroyed. Tony was a little lost about that as well. Especially since his head felt funny. "Tony?"
"Uh, he said something about a Swordsman," he replied, absently. Everything was starting to feel a little fuzzy. And there was something dripping in his eyes. It was getting really annoying. He lifted a hand to wipe it away, frowning when his hand came away covered in something red and sticky. "Uh, guys?"
He heard Steve let out a curse quite unbecoming for the personification of America's ideals. He felt Thor move beside him, mumbling something about staying awake. Tony wasn't aware that he was falling asleep in the first place. But now that the topic was broached, he was feeling a little tired. There was something that he needed to do but it could wait until after he took a nap. The last thing he registered before everything went pleasantly dark was Steve's pained and world weary sigh.
"Natasha is going to kill us."
Clint wanted to go on record by saying that today sucked balls. First, he was stuck with a bunch of agents that had to be the standard definition of the word: stupid. There was no other way to describe it. They were idiots. What else could be the excuse for blatantly walking into a trap when the guy with the crazy awesome eyesight is telling you that it's a trap? Seriously, Fury was definitely scrapping the bottom of the barrel with those idiots. What made it worse was that Clint didn't want to be there in the first place. The least they could've done was listen to him. But no, they didn't. They went straight into the warehouse where they were promptly attacked by a good dozen men. Four SHIELD agents versus twelve men should've been easy but he learned fairly early into this mess that these guys sucked. A lot. So he intervened, shooting arrow after arrow at the men attacking his unfortunate team. Which led to the second reason his day sucked: he got kidnapped. Like actually legitimately kidnapped. In broad daylight, one building away from trained SHIELD agents!
But it was his fault really. He screwed up. He was too used to working with a competent team. There was always someone to watch his back… except for now when the Council was forcing him to work with the incompetent junior idiots. There was no one watching his back then. Tony or Thor would've seen the man creeping behind him. They would've taken him out before he even lifted the sword. Clint finally picked up on his presence just a second before he struck. The leather strap holding his quiver in place was sliced in half, sending the arrows to the ground. There was another jab towards him, this time glancing over his arm leaving a deep gash along his bicep. He fell heavily at the unexpected hit. Clint glared up at his attacker. The frown dropped, replaced by a look of dawning horror as he recognized who was attacking him.
"Well hello there, Clinton. Miss me?"
Clint's eyes widen as he stared at the definitely unwelcome blast from the already unpleasant past. "What… what are you doing here?"
Jacque Duquesne smiled at his former protégé with all the coldness he remembered from that horrible night. "I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd check on you. I did raise you after all. I feel some sort of responsibility for you."
Clint swallowed. Suddenly, he felt like he was fifteen again. He remembered every lash, every strike, every kick, every punch… he remembered it all. He knew it was years ago. He knew that it was all in the past and that he was an adult. He was goddamn superhero. He fought aliens and gods. He should not be afraid of this man. But damned if he wasn't. Jacque took a step towards him, causing Clint to scramble backwards, made awkward and painful by his lack of two functioning arms.
"Stay away from me," he said, trying to calm himself. He was panicking but he couldn't help it. This was his worst nightmare. He would rather be with Loki again than have to deal with this. "I… I don't know what you want…. I don't really even care. Just stay the hell away from me."
"That's a horrible way to treat an old friend, Clinton."
"You would know all about that," Clint retorted. When in doubt always fall back on sarcasm. Then he noticed that his tongue felt heavy. He tried to get up and put more distance between him and his former mentor but his body wasn't obeying his commands. He felt dizzy. His arm felt like it was burning from the inside. Fear gripped him once again as he locked eyes with Duquesne. "What did you do to me?"
The older man crouched down so that he was eye level with Clint. "My dear boy, I know your skills well. This was the only way I could make sure you'd behave for our little trip."
"Leave me 'lone," Clint slurred. He tried to fight the drug he could almost feel wreaking havoc in his body. He couldn't control his own limbs. It was terrifying. Especially with that sick freak standing over him, eyeing him like a tiger would his prey. And if fifteen years ago was any indication that was a very accurate assessment.
"I would but you see there's something I need. Fortunately, you're in a position to help me get it. I finally get my revenge on you for ratting me out to Carson and my employer gets the mutual satisfaction of watching your little band of freaks suffer."
"Stay… away," Clint tried to finish the end of that, he really did. But his body didn't agree. His vision was graying out but he still tried to fight. He wasn't quite sure what was going on but he did know that somehow or another he was going to be used to hurt his friends. He didn't care if Duquesne wanted to get revenge on him but he drew the line at him messing with one of his team.
Through great effort and sheer determination, he managed to move his arm towards one of the discarded arrows. He picked it up in his trembling arm before throwing it at the man with all his strength. Instead of catching him in the eye, as intended, it landed in his arm. His former mentor staggered before ripping out the arrow with an incredulous glare. The last thing Clint registered before everything went black was Duquesne's enraged growl and the hilt of his sword coming way too close to his face.
Today really sucked.
*The end for now. Hope you enjoyed. Next part should be up in a few days.